County tax worries suburban library officials
A panel studying the future of libraries has become too focused on the possibility of a tax to help fund suburban libraries, some officials believe.
Northland Public Library officials are concerned the County-City Library Service Panel sees the tax as the only solution to funding woes, Northland spokeswoman Santina Balestreire said. An example cited in talks is the 0.25 mill tax that Pittsburgh voters approved for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in 2011, she said.
“We want there to be more than just this outcome. We would like to discuss ways that we can operate the library system more efficiently,” Balestreire said.
Buhl Foundation President Frederick W. Thieman, who chairs the panel, denied that members are focusing on a library tax. Others on the panel are current and former Allegheny County Library Association members and Carnegie Library board members.
“First, the library tax isn't even on the table, and we are focused on how the system can operate most effectively and efficiently in the 21st century,” he said.
There is concern that a county-wide tax would result in less money for some libraries, said Cynthia Richey, director of Mt. Lebanon Public Library.
“I think that a county tax might replace” funding from the Regional Asset District, she said. “It might replace local funding, but we don't know that. One of the problems with trying to predict the future is that the future is elusive.”
RAD, which supports libraries, parks, civic facilities and cultural programs through half of the proceeds of a 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County, will give $28.6 million to county libraries this year, but $19.5 million of that will go to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
If a financial analysis indicates that more revenue is needed, the panel might recommend a host of funding sources that could include a tax, Thieman said.
The 45 independent libraries in Allegheny County spend about $55 million a year to operate, but more than half of that is spent by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
Though library usage and costs continue to increase, state funding for libraries has dropped 30 percent in the last 10 years and it is expected to remain flat for the next five years, said Marilyn Jenkins, executive director of the library association, whose members are the Carnegie system and 44 libraries outside the city.
Based in McCandless, Northland receives 60 percent of its funding from five municipalities, including Marshall.
At a Marshall supervisors meeting Monday, Manager Neil McFadden said Marshall contributes about $120,000 to Northland annually.
Board Vice Chairman Philip Troy said he had concerns about a county-wide library tax not being fairly distributed.
The panel is to produce a report for the library association's and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's boards of directors, with suggestions about improving efficiencies and providing better services, at the end of this month.
“It's always good to talk about how to do it better. And maybe nothing at the end of the day needs to change, but if we don't talk about it, we don't know,” said Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
The county's 45 library systems share some services, such as centralized technology support, but the panel also will look at other services that could be shared such as financial reporting and human resources support, Jenkins said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bill would change residency requirements for Mt. Lebanon firefighters
- Our Lady of the Sacred Heart students prepare for Scotland trip
- Mt. Lebanon board raises taxes, approves teacher contract
- Development strategies in Franklin Park shift toward single-family homes, townhouses
- Pittsburgh area teens make a difference with volunteer service
- Program helps Western Pa. students develop awareness of water resources
- New management breathes life into Upper St. Clair office park
- Young Achiever: Leo Sweeney
- Numerous communities to host Memorial Day activities